Saturday, October 8, 2005

The Jon Pertwee Memorial Joke

The Doctor's on the roof, and we can't get him down.In last night's entry, I mentioned the late Jon Pertwee, who played the Doctor on the British tv series Doctor Who from 1970 to 1975.  This was the second-longest continuous BBC run of any Doctor in that venerable science fiction show, second only to Tom Baker.  (I should explain that many different actors have played the role, due to the Doctor's ability to "regenerate" in extreme circumstances rather than die outright.  End of explanation.)  Pertwee's tenure as the Third Doctor was notable for much gadgetry and almost James Bondian heroics, with a touch of humor thrown in.  And why not?  Pertwee's background was in comedy, and despite his age (early 50s at the time), he was athletic enough to do some of his own stunts.  I think.

Teresa and I met Pertwee at the first Gallifrey One convention in Los Angeles in 1990.  He was there in costume, very gracious with fans, and a great raconteur.  We attended all his panels, and ended the weekend with a private interview with him, which eventually appeared in Starlog

Anyway, at the cabaret for that year's convention, Jon Pertwee told a long joke that's stuck with me ever since.  I remembered it again last night, because it involves a dead cat.  Here's the story.

Pertwee really knew how to reel you in with a story. A man goes out of town for a week, leaving a friend behind to housesit.  The friend's main duties are to look after the man's aged mother and not-so-aged cat.  On the second day, the man calls home, and asks how things are going.

"I'm very sorry to have to tell you this, Jeff," says the friend, "but your cat died."

There's a long pause on the phone.  Then Jeff says, "This is terrible news!  How can you just blurt it out like that?"

"What do you expect me to do?"

"You should ease into news like that, to prepare me for the shock.  Today you could have said, 'Your cat's on the roof, and we can't get him down.'"


"No, listen," says Jeff.  "It's the best way.  Then I'd have worried,  but I would have have time to prepare myself for the possibility of something worse happening."

"Well, then, what would you want me to have said  the next day?"

"Tomorrow, you could have said,  'I'm sorry, but your cat fell off the roof, and we had to take him to the vet.'"

"And the third day?"

Heh. "The third day you could say, 'The vet said he'd have to operate on poor Fluffy.'  And then finally, on the fourth day, you could have said, 'I'm sorry.  We did everything we could, but Fluffy died anyway.'  By then I'd be prepared for the news, and it wouldn't be such a shock."

"I'm sorry, Jeff.  I didn't know you'd want me to do something like that.  I thought you'd just want me to tell you the truth."

"Well," says Jeff, "what's done is done.  How is my mom taking all this?"

"I'm afraid I have more bad news for you," says the friend.  "Your mom's on the roof, and we can't get her down."

John Anthony Blake
Actually, the best joke-teller at Doctor Who conventions is my friend John Anthony Blake, a.k.a. John Levene or, as I like to think of him, John Manynames.  I have at least half a dozen of his best jokes memorized.  They're best told by John himself, though, so I won't ruin his routine by overexposing them here. Just  one of them will suffice to give you the flavor of his humor:

"The management of the hotel here gave me a wonderful room.  Wall to wall carpeting, music, sliding doors - I never slept in a bleeding elevator before."

Thanks, John, for all the great times I've had, listening to your jokes and stories!


All Jon Pertwee pictures shown are screen captures from The Five Doctors.  Copyright BBC 1983. The autographed Levene card is from the first series of Cornerstone Doctor Who cards - text by yours truly.


aurielalata said...

I am such a Who fan! Jon Pertwee was one of my favorite Doctors (though, as I grow older, I find that I am fond of them all). This entry brings back lots of memories of watching Dr. Who with my friends on Saturday nights here in Atlanta. Our local public tv station would start at 10 pm and run a complete story arc till twelve or so. It was great fun.

Now I collect the DVDs, but Pertwee is hard to find. Too bad...I miss his humor and athletics. It's good to hear that he was as charming in person as he seemed to be on the screen.


deabvt said...

Thanks, Karen...My son & I spent countless hours watching Dr. Who!
Now, it`s Stargate 1, every Friday night! And Ben Brower from Farscape is there, our fave Sci-Fi !!

ryanagi said...

Jelly Baby?  ;-)